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Bedford County’s future teachers have been making presentations on energy in the county’s high schools this fall. They ended these sessions at the Bedford Science and Technology Center, where their program is based.
Drake Watts, who is vice president of Watts Petroleum, was the featured speaker at last week’s event. Watts Petroleum has offices in Lynchburg, Bedford and Altavista. Drake Watts is the third generation of his family to be involved in the business that his grandfather started. Watts said that the company delivers gasoline to gas stations and heating oil and propane to homes.
Watts described where our petroleum comes from. Half is domestically produced, a third of which comes from off-shore wells. America’s principal foreign suppliers are Canada and Mexico.
Gasoline comes to this part of Virginia via two pipelines. One delivers gas to a tank farm in Roanoke and the other delivers it to the big storage tanks in Montvale. Tanker trucks fill up at these tank farms and take it to gas stations.
Watts told students that petroleum will provide the primary source of fuel for the foreseeable future. Electric cars have a range of about 200 miles, but then take eight hours to recharge. Their batteries are also very expensive, making the cars pricy. Hydrogen has problems as an automotive fuel because it is volatile.
Biofuels also present problems. Watts said that biodiesel congeals at low temperatures, which is why it can only be used in a fuel mixture that is primarily petroleum based. Ethanol is less energy efficient than gasoline and corn-based ethanol consumes a food crop, which leads to higher food prices.
Watts talked a little about wages that people working in petroleum make. He said that people who drive tanker trucks make between $30,000 and $40,000 per year. Engineers have salaries in six figures.
Drake Watts has a degree in business and economics from Virginia Military Institute.